Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Serenity Tool for the Recession: Breathe

If you listen to news reports, you know the gloomy--even terrifying--financial predictions for the year. Well, I'm a pragmatist, and if I want to keep my mind clear and focused on work--and motivated to market--I need tools. My tools, it just so happens, are of the yogic variety. This is an occasional series of tips and tools for maintaining calm and serenity despite the economic forecast. Have a tip of your own? Comment below.

I don't know about you, but when I read about the number of publications going under or taking all their work in house, I catch my breathe unintentionally. I don't think I'm alone on this. Indeed, the Freelance Nation may be one populated by shallow breathers. But now's the time to exhale, says writer and consultant Ally Peltier:
My uncle, who stood on his head and meditated every morning my entire childhood (he died when I was in college), often just looked at me in the midst of a rushed stream of words and said, "Breathe." It's simple, but effective. While it's important to be savvy and work hard, you reach a certain point where you've done everything you can do, and the rest (like the downturning economy) is out of your control. Worrying is futile and destructive to your health. So, when I feel anxious about what's going to happen, I just remember: "Breathe."
This is another one of those pieces of advice that can come off as trite or a platitude. But in the yogic world, it isn't code for "quit complaining" or "chill out, man." It's a direction to engage in a real practice, just like Sun Salutations or, in the business world, following your business plan.

Yogic breathe work is called pranyama, the fourth of yoga's eight limbs that also include asana (what we Westerners think of as "yoga" but is actually the physical postures). A March 2008 study confirms what yogis have known for centuries: Practicing it can increase oxygen in the blood, calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and improve cardiac response.

It's good for you, and it feels good.

The type of breathing that one yogi recommended to me for today's economic troubles is Nadi Shodhan (Alternate Nostril Breath). I like to practice this especially when I'm in a sauna or steam room, because if feel like it really clears out my sinuses while calming me. But you can do it at any time and it takes two minutes:

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